“abide with me”

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For those of us brought up on earlier English translations of the Bible, ‘abide’ is a favourite word. It is related to the idea of a living place ‘abode’. It comes throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. Depending on the translation you use, you may know it as ‘continue in’, ‘remain’, ‘stay’ or even ‘hang in there’, stick it out’. But none of these capture quite that idea of ‘dwelling with’ (if you use the Bible in a different language you may like to consider the word you have and its implications).

It comes in the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  (psalm 91 v1), or

Those who trust in the Lord
Are like Mount Zion,
Which cannot be moved, but abides forever. (Psalm 125 v1)

2 John 9 calls on us to abide in Christ. It sounds very nice, we make our home in Christ, but does that contain a danger that we become too passive? All the translations of this lovely notion could fall into the trap of promoting passivity. Our generation can be very energetic about wanting to make the future better and reject a Christianity which seems to be telling them to accept what comes their way. I think that is a false teaching and I don’t see a contradiction. Christ is our home, in the past, the present and the future. We have the option of abiding in him always, regardless of how much circumstances may change, or may need to change.

There is another dimension to this wonderful word. John 15v4 quotes Jesus as saying:

‘Abide in me, as I abide in you’ and Jesus goes on to describe the relationship between himself and his disciples as like that between a vine and its branches.

So not only are we called to live in him, but he lives in us, all the time, come what may. The famous song, beloved of football fans, ‘Abide with me’, seems to me the purest prayer – we cannot tell God what he ‘ought’ to do, we may not know our real needs, but whatever is happening, may we abide in him, and he in us.

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